Last year's BP oil rig explosion and spill are still having numerous health, environmental, and economic impacts. Among the lesser known neurological impacts: political amnesia. It appears that Big Oil can cause Intern Kristi Noem and her Republican colleagues on the House Natural Resources Committee to forget that they want to fight the budget deficit.

On April 13, this committee was marking up three bills that would rush drilling permits, skip environmental analyses, and force drilling in ecologically sensitive areas. Congressman Edward Markey, Democrat from Massachusetts, at least tried to introduce some fiscal sensibility to the discussion. Noem and the GOP would have none of it:

The hearing also demonstrated that no matter how much the GOP might talk about reducing the deficit, it won't do so if such a move might harm Big Oil. Indeed, during the markup, Rep. Markey (D-MA) offered an amendment that would prevent the Secretary of the Interior from issuing new leases to the holders of 8 leases on which royalties were mistakenly revoked, unless they agree to pay royalties on these leases. By imposing proper royalty requirements on these leases, this amendment would produce $53 billion in royalties over the next 4 years, all of which would go to the U.S. Treasury to reduce our deficit. Despite the fact that curbing the deficit is one of the GOP's purported goals, not a single member of the Republican Party voted for the amendment. The message could not be more clear: when faced with a choice between helping Americans reduce our deficit and providing unnecessary assistance to the oil industry, these Members will choose their campaign contributors over our country [Elly Pepper, "Oil Spill Amnesia Bills Pass House Natural Resources Committee," Natural Resources Defense Council: Switchboard, 2011.04.19].

Ah, I see. Kristi Lynn Arnold Noem will swindle Americans out of Medicare and destroy Medicaid to reduce federal spending, but asking BP, Exxon, and the other oil corporations to pay their proper lease royalties is off Noem's budget table.

Ascribing this irresponsible lawmaking to amnesia is generous. Let us hope Noem and her colleagues recover in time for the floor vote in the House.

Update 12:31 CDT: The folks who consider themselves Intern Noem's BFFs are getting antsy, too. Bob Ellis calls Noem's farm subsidies unconstitutional and warns there could be a primary challenge if Noem keeps facilitating the GOP's "fiddling around with numbers games, compromises and half-measures." Noem's refusal to tackle the deficit in the Natural Resources Committee should only stoke Bob and Shad's disappointment further. Get ready for Gordon Howie for House in 2012!

Update 2011.04.29 08:49 CDT: One of Noem's biggest PAC donors in her spectacular first-quarter fundraising: Exxon Mobil PAC, $3,000.